While I was at home last night watching Food, Inc. on Netflix.com, Kevin was at our local grocery store.
We have a family tradition of having a big Sunday dinner. Kevin always has Sunday off work, so it’s often the first day in several that we’ve got to spend more than a few awake moments together as a family. He wanted ribs tonight, and I was excited to make them because A. they were on sale and B. I wanted to show you guys how I make them in my crock pot and how juicy and delicious they are.
So he bought the ribs on his way to work last night. (It was less than 10 degrees last night, so they were fine in the car in a hot/cold insulated bag until he came home.) Ribs, brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes. Yum yum. Right?
I really wanted to share the rub I use. (How cute are my measuring cups that they turn out heart-shaped brown sugar?)
Except I watched Food, Inc. last night.
So it was early in the morning, and my brain was still on autopilot. I got the ribs into the slowcooker before I thought about taking a look at what I was making.
I looked at the package in a way that I’m not really used to. The package said that the pig the ribs came from was raised without hormones (pigs aren’t raised with hormones, apparently, as the label also said the US Government doesn’t allow it. So hormone-free pork is a little bit of advertising voodo. Like advertising potatoes as being vegetarian) and processed with minimal processing. So far, so good, right? They came from Missouri, which is well outside the West Coast local thing, but he’d already bought them. And Missouri isn’t nearly as far as they could have come from. I made a mental note to talk to Kevin about expanding the West Coast rule to meats.
So I was curious. I Googled Premium Standard Farms.
Premium Standard Farms is a subsidiary of Smithfield. It’s a giant producer of meat. The big giant producer of meat depicted in Food, Inc. The kind that controls everything from the birth of baby pigs right to their slaughter. I had visions of cows with holes in their sides, and pigs eating each others tails off because they’re packed in so tight their whole lives.
I’m reminded of something my clients talk about. They might relapse, but using isn’t the same ever again once they start treatment because they have a belly full of booze and a head full of 12 steps. Even if I eat meat that comes from a mass producer again, it won’t ever be the same blissful mindless eating that I’ve enjoyed in the past. It won’t be that eyes-closed, moan-in-the-back-of-your-throat good grubbin’ experience ever again.
Premium Standard’s website features an idyllic set of farm pictures with sweet little pink piggies looking all happy.
But this article lists some pretty valid reasons for boycotting this company. Now, granted, that article was written in 1996. But time doesn’t erase environmental issues that have already happened. I would hope that they’ve changed, and that they take better care now. But I don’t know.
Just recently, like in the last week, Premium Standard Farms achieved an ISO 14001 certificate for all it’s Missouri farms. ISO 14001 is a set of environmental standards. I spent a good hour trying to figure out exactly what that meant, but even in plain English, it’s very vague. I can only hope it means that they’ve cleaned up their act, at least somewhat.
And while the package sticker said no hormones, it didn’t say no antibiotics. I am assuming that a company that doesn’t use them would announce that if they’re going to bother with saying ‘no hormones.’ I don’t see how they could have 4.5 million hogs to slaughter each year without using antibiotics.
So, I guess the moral of this story is pay attention. Read labels. Then hit Google. Find out where your food comes from.
And please, do it before you buy.
That way you won’t end up like me, with a crock pot filled with ribs that you wish you hadn’t bought.
Tomorrow I’m going to my grocery store. I’m writing down the names of the meat producers offered there. And I’m Googling them, so that I can make informed, ethical, healthful choices about what I feed my family.